THE Chinese Governmnet has offered to provide Zambia with relief food if the country experiences crop failure this season, special assistant to the President for press and public relations Amos Chanda has said.
And Mr. Chanda says China has pledged support to Avic International, the company that has been contracted to build an international airport in Ndola, to ensure that the project was started and completed within schedule.
Mr. Chanda told the media yesterday that visiting Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Zhang Dejiang, and President Edgar Lungu held a closed door meeting on Saturday in which Mr. Dejiang disclosed that Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to support Zambia in mitigating the food shortage because he understood that the Southern African region was drought-prone.
“The two leaders held a bilateral conversation across a range of issues bordering on the development package that President Jinping announced during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) meeting in December. Mr. Dejiang said President Xi Jinping has commended President Lungu for the steadfast position he has taken in stabilising the country in the past one year and three months he has been in office.
“He also takes note that rainfall pattern in Southern Africa and particularly Zambia has not been very good and he has taken personal interest to monitor the food security situation and is committed to stabilising the food supply chain in the course of the year since the crop harvest forecast shows that there could be crop failure. He also communicated that he is personally making a follow-up because the stability of food supply entails the stability of the nation,” Mr Chanda said.
But Mr. Chanda maintained that Zambia had enough maize stocks that will last until the end of the current season, adding that UPND president Hakainde Hichilema’s statement that the country was importing maize was false.
“The President finds it absurd that an opposition leader must alarm the nation on situations that do not exist. There is not a single import of maize that has occurred now.
The President has outlined a three stage approach with the first approach being the buying of maize held by the private sector by Government while the second option is to grow winter maize.
“If these two options do not satisfy the market, the President will authorise the import of maize from South America but we haven’t even gone to option one which entails the mopping up of maize in the private sector,” he said.
And Mr. Jinping congratulated Zambia for the robust infrastructure development programme that has taken place between 2011 to-date and that the Chinese government would urge all Chinese contractors to ensure that they delivered good quality infrastructure.
“Of specific mention was the proposed Ndola International Airport that the contractor, AVIC International, will be working on and the company will receive the full support of the Chinese authorities to ensure that the airport construction works begin as promised during the first quarter of this year which is within this month to ensure that it is delivered on schedule. The airport is a US$397 million project,” he said.
Mr Chanda said President Lungu thanked the Chinese governmnet for being an all-weather friend of Zambia.